DALLAS – Continuity is often what separates the average-at-best teams, from the good, from the great.
In head coach Jason Kidd’s second season, and in a remarkably tougher Western Conference, it’s the continuity that Luka Doncic – the preseason favorite to win MVP – feels sets the Dallas Mavericks apart.
“We are doing a better job this year because we’ve been together for one year,” Doncic said after practice on Tuesday. “We know what he wants from us. It’s a lot easier for us and for them [the coaches] this year. I think we are getting better.”
Dallas will have to be better than it was last year by improving internally. With no Jalen Brunson, and the only real additions made to the team being Christian Wood and JaVale McGee, the Mavericks are looking at a hole in the roster when it comes to shot creation. Originally, at the start of training camp, Kidd said he believed that replacing Brunson’s production would be done by committee.
That may still be true.
Finding an additional playmaker
Dallas picked up Josh Green’s fourth-year option, which is to be expected as many within the organization believe he will have a productive season.
In the second preseason game, a 110-105 loss, Dallas took an extended look at guard Frank Ntilikina running the offense. He finished with seven points and no assists. After the game, Ntilikina spoke highly of getting the opportunity to run the show citing that he felt he did a good job.
And in between all the commotion of replacing near-star-level production with a host of middling players, general manager Nico Harrison said he’s not really worried about finding a perfect third playmaker next to Doncic.
“I’m not worried about us not having a third ball-handler,” he said on 96.7 The Ticket on Wednesday. “Before we got Spencer [Dinwiddie], we were rolling, and it was just the two ball handlers if you will. The magic for us happened before the trade.”
And despite all the assurance that another ball-handler isn’t needed, thanks to the growth of Green and the emergence of Ntilikina, recently, Dallas has been in advanced talks with former Denver point guard Facundo Campazzo, according to a report from Marc Stein.
Dallas continues to weigh signing PG Facu Campazzo, league sources say, but no firm decision has been made.
Campazzo has said since leaving Denver that staying in the NBA is his hope. @webEncestando reports he has EuroLeague interest from Fenerbahce and former team Real Madrid.
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 9, 2022
I guess the truth is always somewhat relative.
A belief in team continuity
What remains constant is Dallas’ one strength found on a roster that may have gotten slightly worse in the offseason – continuity. It’s hard to imagine Dallas trotting out a hyper-efficient offense without another star, or near-star, player to take the pressure off Doncic.
Meaning, to win, Dallas may need to do what it did in the 20 games leading into the 2022 playoffs. Win with defense.
Doncic knows this, and he’s made that side of the floor more of a priority heading into the 2022-23 season than ever before. But what he admits makes it easier to do so is team chemistry.
“If you want to win a championship, you have to be a defensive team,” Doncic said. “We have chemistry. There is a lot of people that were here last year, we have some new pieces, but the chemistry is the same.”
Finding another elite ball-handler and shot-creator is something that Dallas appears to be saving for later. Fair enough.
Until then, Doncic and his teammates are finding comfort in continuity. They know they can’t replace Brunson. So, they are choosing not to focus on that. Instead, the Mavericks are internalizing the way they know they can win – defense.
But in a more brutal Western Conference, it’s unknown whether that will be enough.
“We have [some] new teammates,” Doncic said. “You’ve got to focus on what we have, not what we don’t have. And we’ve just got to focus on our team here.”
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Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.